Wed, Oct 12, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Legislative impasse bodes ill

Yet another physical confrontation in the legislature has resulted in lawmakers from both the green and blue camps being sent to hospital. The nation's democracy seems to have regressed to resemble the "permanent Assembly" elected in China in the 1940s.

The unreasonably low status of the legislature until a dozen or so years ago meant that lawmakers lacked legitimacy, and that the government and opposition could not discuss issues in a rational manner. The result was violent confrontation each time a major bill was sent to the floor for review.

Although the legislature is now democratically elected and legitimate representation is not in question, constitutional regulations ensure that presidential and executive powers held by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are being balanced by the blue camp's legislative majority. The result is a political process paralyzed by obstruction, slowing government business to a crawl.

But despite the stalemate, the politicians must find a solution.

The 2000 US presidential election and the recent tussle over the German chancellorship were both dealt with according to the law, but in Taiwan the deep animosity between the blue and green camps means that neither wants to take a step back. When a major political conflict occurs in a healthy society, neutral groups can take on the role of arbitrators. But the vicious competition seen in many past national elections, however, means that almost all groups and individuals -- including supposedly neutral academic circles -- have been labeled either green or blue.

Establishing a national communications commission (NCC) is an important part of national media reform. The organization should represent expertise and independence, but the proposed bill is being directed by political concerns. The Cabinet insists that the premier should appoint the commission's members and direct its operations. The blue camp insists that its members should be appointed in proportion to party representation in the legislature, which would give control of the commission to the blue camp.

Neither side is willing to compromise.

The "cross-strait peace advancement" bill, however, is a constitutional disaster zone. The People First Party version of the bill aims to undermine the government and create a committee that can direct cross-strait policy over the head of the executive, bypassing both the Mainland Affairs Council and the Straits Exchange Foundation. This body could negotiate directly with China and would be authorized to sign treaties, playing a decisive role in determining policy over the "three links" and free-trade zones, and even a ceasefire agreement. This completely ignores the principle of separation of powers under the Constitution, and could easily develop into a monster.

The arms-procurement and NCC bills each raise special concerns, and these could be debated publicly. Unfortunately, the blue camp has seen fit to use its legislative majority to block a review of the arms bill.

Every Taiwanese is a partisan in this conflict between the green and blue camps, and as such no one can be found to mediate. There is no one of sufficient stature, no impartial media, and no intellectuals with adequate qualifications and credibility to arbitrate.

When the legislature itself throws out the constitutional principles of legislation, the executive must appeal to the constitutional courts.

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